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Full text of "History And Human Relation"

HISTORY    AS    A    BRANCH   *DF    LITERATURE

restrictions and still more the constrictions which pre-
vent our achieving this result even when we think we
hsfve achieved it form the most serious limitation upon
historical understanding, and indeed upon human com-
prehension generally, at the present day.

Over and above the things that have been noted on
the subject of literary historians in general, we must
take cognizance of the remarkable fact that the science
of history has been enriched even by the achievement of
the historical novelist. This is not difficult to under-
stand, for historical abridgements may present us with
mere formulas sometimes, and chroniclers may cheat us
with unexplained events or with facts that seem to have
no particular fcontext. The historical novelist, on the
other hand, if he takes his work seriously at all, is
inescapably confronted with the problem of seeing a
former age in its concrete detail, and on its own terms,
and with its proper setting. Macaulay is one^of the
people who have confessed the indebtedness of the
historian to the historical novelist.

Sir Walter Scott [he says] ... has used those fragments
of truth which historians have scornfully thrown behind
them, in a manner which may weH excite their envy. He
has constructed out of their gleanings works which even
considered as histories are scarcely less valuable than them.
But a truly great historian would reclaim those materials
which the novelist has appropriated.

Macaulay, furthermore, makes the interesting remark
that hitherto the world had had to look for " one half of
King James in Hume, and the other half in the fortunes
of Nigel". The view that any single event of the past